151 Helias Catholic High School seniors urged to act with courage, compassion, consecration


CLICK HERE to see a gallery of photos from the Baccalaureate Mass. 

CLICK HERE to see a gallery of photos from the Graduation. 

Helias Catholic High School’s Class of 2024 chose for its senior song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Broadway musical “Carousel.”

The haunting ballad was fitting for a class so deeply united in faith and friendship.

“To be Catholic means you also always have somebody to talk to, and you always have somebody in your corner — and that somebody is Jesus,” said graduating senior Mason French.

“To me, being Catholic is knowing that no matter what’s going on in your life, Jesus is always going be there for you and love you,” said graduating senior Sam Wyrick.

They and their 149 classmates wore matching blue gowns and mortarboards for graduation May 19 in the Crusader Athletic Complex.

Helias Catholic President Ron Vossen repeated the school’s often-stated goal of “building a community of saints and scholars for Christ” — meaning that the entire faculty, staff and administration is committed to helping students develop academically, spiritually, and personally into the people God is calling them to be.

“We hope you will continue to be guided by the same core values of faith, community and excellence,” said Mr. Vossen.

Karoline Klebba, one of the two 2024 Father Helias Award recipients, led the opening prayer.

“Heavenly Father, we ask you to accompany us as we face new adventures and challenges,” she prayed. “May the paths we take always lead to you and to the eternal joy that is ours through your Son.”

Sam Wyrick, also a Father Helias Award recipient, proclaimed a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy.

In it, Moses tells the prophet Joshua that “it is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.”

Tradition and community

Principal Spencer Allen thanked the parents, friends, supporters, faculty and staff for all they had done to help bring the Class of 2024 to this milestone.

“We are guided by faith in Jesus Christ and his Church toward excellence in all things, and we make the journey along a path paved with tradition, accompanied by our community,” he stated.

“Find balance by making it a priority to schedule downtime, prayer time and family time,” he advised the soon-to-be graduates.

“Be adaptable when your carefully orchestrated plans get turned upside down,” he said. “And take ownership of your actions, demonstrating integrity through accountability.”

Miss Klebba, in her role as student council president, said she regretted wishing away so much of high school while waiting for the next big milestone.

“The four years do truly fly by, and I was honored to experience them with you, the Class of 2024,” she told her classmates.

She pointed to 19 individual school records having been broken by members of the class, along with a record-high attendance for this year’s spring musical.

“We thank all the teachers, coaches, staff and parents who pushed and guided us to our full potential,” she said.

Bright futures

Together, this year’s 151 graduates have accepted more than $2.7 million in scholarships to continue their post-secondary education.

One hundred forty-four plan to attend college or technical school, four are committed to service in the U.S. Armed Forces, and seven will enter the workforce.

Erin Vader Ed.D, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, led the graduating seniors in prayer.

She asked God to help them remain vigilant and uncomfortable enough to act whenever they see injustice and any affront to human dignity.

Dr. Vader, Mr. Allen and Assistant Principal Dwayne Clingman distributed the diplomas as Assistant Principal Emma Williams announced the names.

Mr. Vossen congratulated each graduate amid waves of cheers and applause.

Twelve graduating seniors were honored as valedictorians: Gracie Bullock, Allison Echelmeyer, Alison Forbis, Nathan Kever, Karoline Klebba, Sarah Knollmeyer, Enzo Lenart, Molly Maher, Ava Morris, Emily Rodriguez, Addison Slicker and Kearra Steinlage.

Other honors included:

  • the John Baptist De La Salle Service Award for contributing 500 or more hours of service over their high school years: Jayla Howard, Madison Kempker, Karoline Klebba, Katherine Roling and Madison Verslues;
  • the Father Helias Award, recognizing outstanding contribution to Helias Catholic: Karoline Klebba and Sam Wyrick;
  • the American Legion Citation, recognizing leadership, scholarship and service: Ava Morris and Kase Winegar;
  • the Veterans of Foreign Wars Award, recognizing citizenship, scholarship and good attendance: Nicholas Ammons and Emily Rodriguez.

Even more precious

The graduating seniors, their parents and the rest of the student body gathered during school May 15 for this year’s Baccalaureate Mass.

Father Paul Clark, the school’s chaplain, asked the soon-to-be graduates to consider whether they’re consecrated.

“The King of the Universe has already consecrated himself to you,” the priest pointed out. “You’ve already been chosen by him.”

Consecrate means setting something apart for a particular purpose, to say “yes” to that purpose.

The priest reminded the students how at every Mass, everyone present enters into the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus — God in the flesh.

“It is his glory, it is his gift to us,” he noted.

Vessels fashioned of precious metals and used for no other purpose hold the bread and wine that are consecrated at the altar into Body and Blood of Christ.

“We procure the greatest vessels, gold and silver, because the King of the Universe is going to be within them,” said Fr. Clark. “But then, in Holy Communion, he says, ‘I’d rather be within you.’”

Jesus says in the Bible that he consecrates himself to his followers, so that they also may be consecrated.

However, “in complete freedom, you have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’” said Fr. Clark. “And because you matter, your ‘yes’ to being consecrated matters.”

It means choosing to be transformed, set apart, made sacred.

“When we consecrate ourselves to the Lord, it spreads!” said Fr. Clark. “And if we all do it, the world better prepare!”

Joining Fr. Clark at the altar was Helias Catholic graduate Father Christopher Cordes, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Holts Summit and diocesan vicar for priests.

Deacon Alvin Brand of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish assisted at the altar.

What comes next

In interviews, graduating seniors Ella Patterson, Ava Morris, Anna AuBuchon, Mason French, Sam Wyrick reflected on what they’ll miss about being part of Helias Catholic, and what they hope to take with them.

All five are active in campus ministry and peer ministry at the school.

 “I’ll miss the opportunities — mission trips and retreats. Coach Rackers and Fr. Clark,” said Ella.

“I’ll miss the family feeling,” said Ava. “Being in a classroom where you can know everybody’s name and know who everybody is.”

“The involvement,” said Anna. “Because you have so many opportunities to get involved with the people around you, including the alumni.”

“I’ll miss the tight-knit community and the feeling that I’ll always have a family around,” said Mason.

“I’ll miss knowing everyone,” said Sam.

Mason plans to major in pre-med at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, and to attend medical school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

He said he hopes to take with him the morals and practices Helias Catholc helped refine for him “and hopefully make an impact.”

Anna plans to major in chemistry at the University of Missouri and then go to law school.

She intends to meld into her college experience the values Helias Catholic reinforced in her, “which are strong morals and stewardship.”

Ava plans to study elementary education at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

She intends to get involved at the Newman Center “and find people who have the same values as me that I enjoy being around, and make them feel like family.”

Ella plans to major in child development at Moberly Area Community College in Columbia and then transfer to University in Fayette.

She is determined to get involved at the Newman Center in Columbia and “stay with it the whole four years.”

Sam plans to study sports management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, to sign up at the Newman Center “and keep my faith and continue to practice it.”

Always a Crusader

All five interviewed seniors hope to be recognized as Helias Catholic graduates.

“I think the traits of any person who goes to a Catholic school, especially Helias, are very noticeable in the classroom and outside of it,” said Anna.

These include respect in a classroom, diligence in homework, honor in doing schoolwork, “and just overall kindness and well-mannered behavior whenever you’re out of school,” she said.

Ava hopes people will know where she came from “based on the way I treat them — how nice I am to them and how welcoming I am to them.”

All agreed that God’s presence could be felt throughout their four years at Helias Catholic.

They spoke emphatically of their intentions to remain Catholic and put their faith into practice.

For Anna, discipleship will be a large part of that — “through caring for others and sharing the message of God and also working on getting the people around me to heaven as well as working on getting myself to heaven through the work with them.”

Ella said being Catholic involves “having a community that you can fall back on if anything bad ever happens in your life or you’re going through rough times.”

Ava said being Catholic also means unity, “because everybody has different lives and different lifestyles, but for us, you always know you have somebody next to you and you can always be there for each other.”

Important lessons

The group talked about important lessons they had learned beyond the classroom.

“Treat others how you want to be treated,” said Sam. “Don’t talk badly about people because you obviously don’t want people talking bad about you. Love everyone, honestly. Love as Jesus did.”

“Spread kindness and do to others what you would want done to yourself,” said Mason.

“Trust God’s plan,” said Ava. “There are times when we think we know what we should be doing, but then God sends reminders that he actually has a better plan for us.”

“Step out of your comfort zone, and do something even if you think you can’t,” said Ella.

“Nothing is bigger or more important than your relationship with God,” said Anna.

Each requested prayers for courage, strength and success.

“Pray that we do not stray from the path that God has put us on,” said Mason.

“For diligence through work and faith,” said Anna. “Just continuing to follow the strong path that Helias has helped us stay on, and taking ownership of our faith from this point forward.”

“Just for us to trust in God’s plan and know that everything’s going to be okay and everything’s going to go how God wants it to be,” said Sam.

“Pray for us that we don’t fall away from the faith and that if we do, we’ll answer God’s call back to us to join him back in the faith,” said Ava.

Contributing to this report was Rebecca Martin, director of communications and admissions for Helias Catholic.